"You know how you've always told me how I need to live more in the moment?" I asked Janelle, sitting in her blue dress across the small white, wrought-iron table from me. "Well, I think I can safely say I am doing that better than any other person on the planet right now."
My wife didn't say anything, of course, but I didn't expect her to. We were sitting at the small, outdoor café on main street. I met her here every day at this time. At least as I measured it.
"Things are going well for me,” I told her. “I'm finally getting a handle on things. Certainly took me long enough." I looked up and saw she wasn't looking at me. I adjusted my chair so she was, her beautiful green eyes reflecting the scenery behind me. "It's taken me a lot of time.”
I looked up at the large cumulus cloud hovering overhead, white and billowy in the mid morning light. It almost looked as if it had a cave like opening in it, one you could, if light enough, climb through to higher vistas. The shades of light within it suggested it had an opening in the top.
“I don't think I've done anything illegal, not that anyone could catch me if I had, but I think I've got this down. It did take me some time to come to grips with my situation. Far too long going through all the stages, denial, anger; well, you know."
There was just a hint of tears in her eyes. I wished I could do something about it, but it was perhaps the one thing I was completely powerless to do.
"You know what I did yesterday?" I grew excited and even chuckled a little at my cleverness. "I found a groom at his wedding having his way with one of the bridesmaids, cliché I know--I wonder how many of them actually do that. God I can't even understand that mentality." I shook my head and tried envisioning cheating on the beautiful woman sitting across the table from me. I couldn't do it. "Anyway, you know what I did? This is great!" I laughed, she didn't. "I opened the door so the whole chapel could see what he was up to." I laughed again, but couldn't maintain it in light of her silence. My heart ached for close to the thousandth time.
I reached out for her hand but then drew back, seeing my old wrinkled skin next to the soft alabaster of hers. My hand had been as young as hers when we'd first sat down at this table, and hadn't had as many scars.
I looked a couple of tables over at the dog that was tied there, staring at me as he always did. I took a couple of breaths and reached for my plate, having forgotten it was empty. Her sandwich was half-eaten, she'd never had a large appetite.
"Do you mind?" I asked as I reached for it, knowing she... wouldn't. I picked it up, expecting the weight increase the further I got it from its starting point. I had to meet it halfway, as it got about a foot from the plate and stopped, refusing to budge any further. I took a bite, chewed, and was instantly full, one of the few advantages to my condition. I put it back on the plate. It always fascinated me how things would snap back to their original positions when they got close enough.
"I think this will be the last day that I have to work on the boy." I glanced over my shoulder in the direction Janelle was looking. She had the look of someone who was beginning to grow startled. I wondered if it was that look which had caused my condition in the first place. I wished I understood the mechanics of how it all worked, but I didn't. I'd come up with countless theories and postulations, but as there was no way to test them, I just didn't know.
"If I do finish with him, I may not see you for awhile, I've done all I could in the immediate area. I'm going to make my way further, to see if there are other things I can do while my condition lasts." As I said that, I hoped, not for the first time, I was the one with the condition, and not everything else.
"I'll return if I can, my sweet, and hopefully some day be able to wipe those tears from your eyes." Fighting my own tears, I bent over and kissed her lips, doing my best to imagine them as yielding.
I stood up, stretched my aging back and turned to face the chore at hand. Over on the street the boy was now hovering a foot off the ground, no longer in front of the bus. He was still too close for my taste, so I walked over, took a deep breath and started pushing him further toward the sidewalk. As always, the first inch was easy, the second, not so. The third it felt like I was pushing a Buick, the fourth the Buick had become an SUV. I strained hard, felt a muscle in by back give way, followed by one in my right leg. Then he hit the point he would go no further. Beyond that, I knew, from long hard practice, he wouldn't move, no matter what I did, until one of my days, as I measured them, had past. I sank to the ground, breathing very hard, sweat rolling into my eyes; I closed them. My head was pounding painfully, along with my heart. If I'd stayed standing, I would have passed out, and maybe been in the path of the bus myself if it started moving again.
I didn't have any mechanism for measuring small doses of my time, of course, so I had no idea how long I lay there. Finally, though, I drug myself to my feet, headache in full force and looked at the frozen world around me. I studied the boy and judged I'd finally gotten him far enough away from danger.
I caught my reflection in the window of the bus and tried to judge how old I was now, by the wrinkles. Forty-five? Fifty? Which would make it over twenty years I'd been in this frozen world, stuck in the same moment of time. Maybe the only thing that would release the world to do its thing again would be my death. My loneliness, however, was not enough justification for any action on my part in that direction. I'd faced and conquered that stage many of my years ago.
Who knows, maybe I could live another twenty or thirty years, ranging further and further to see if there were any other endangered people who needed a nudge.
I turned and took one last look at my lovely, frozen wife. Then I took a deep breath and walked down the street.